"THYS BOKE IS MYNE"
NOTES FROM THE CURATOR
Writers' marks are especially interesting. Authorial inscriptions tell us about personal relationships and document variations in handwriting or signature. Annotations record reactions to the competition, reflect prejudices, or show an author being difficult or vulnerable - in short, human. Reconstructing the contents of a writer's library can reveal source material behind famous works, or produce wonderful stories. Dr. Johnson, "though he loved his books, did not show them respect," says Boswell. He did not hesitate to slice leaves from a book with a greasy knife, or read while he ate, "and one knows how he ate." John Locke's library was a masterpiece of order, while Oliver Goldsmith and John Ruskin mutilated their books, tearing out chapters to avoid transcription, or giving choice pages to friends. It is riveting to see copies we know were owned by John Dryden, Edmund Spenser, or embellished with verse by Langston Hughes. These books exude an extra quality of life, like seeing a love letter.
Myles Blomefylde's booke
Scholarship is revealing much about women and their reading habits and the exhibition shows you some of the books they owned. Francis Wolfreston (1607-1677) had a library of over 400 volumes and almost all have her signature, Frances Wolfreston, hor bouk carefully written with a thick quill pen. Wolfreston's interest in drama and contemporary English literature was probably unusual for her time, but she acquired some the greatest rarities of early English literature. She had no less than ten Shakespeare quartos, a copy of the Rape of Lucrece (1616), and history is indebted to her for the first edition of Venus and Adonis (1593), a unique copy later owned by Edmund Malone and now in the Bodleian. Did any woman collect more Shakespeare in the 17th century?
I must first
confess my want of Books.
Thys Boke Is Myne shows
you volumes belonging to some of the greatest collectors in the early
modern period (John Dee, Edward Dering, Thomas Knyvett, John Lumley),
and books from renown family libraries, like the one at Britwell Court,
said to have rivaled or even surpassed the British Museum. The 18th century
was an age of great collectors as well as great actors and editors of
early drama, roles sometimes played by the same person. David Garrick's
library was unsurpassed. John Philip Kemble's was a model of scholarly
care. George Steevens and Edmund Malone, known more for being devoted
editors of Shakespeare, battled each other in the auction rooms.
When ye lok
on this remember me.
Inscriptions in books are full of anecdote and human interest, and the study of provenance brings us closer to people and their history. Behold Anne of Cleves' gentle inscription to her future husband, when ye loke on thys remember me, in sharp contrast to Henry's VIII's pronouncement, Thys Boke Is Myne Prynce Henry. Somehow we know more about these human beings by the way they wrote in their books.
This exhibition is a celebration of the history of private libraries, of people and their books. Petrarch (whose private library provided the nucleus of the future Bibliothèque Nationale) praised his books as "welcome, assiduous companions, always ready to encourage you, comfort you, advise you, reprove you and take care of you, to teach you the world's secrets and never bring you lamentation, jealous murmurs, or deception." That's why we own books and keep them close, that's what Thys Boke Is Myne is about.
Richard received his B.A. at Swarthmore College in English Literature and completed his graduate studies at the Shakespeare Institute (England) and Trinity College Dublin (Ireland). After receiving a Masters in Library Service from Columbia University, he has worked as a library administrator in academic and research institutions for the past twenty years, with accomplishments in developing and implementing programs in reader services, with initiatives focused on conservation and special collections, and in library automation. Most recently, he has written and lectured on printing history in the Irish Literary Renaissance (Cuala Press), and the paintings of Henry Fuseli, a late-eighteenth century artist of Shakespearean themes, as well as doing consulting work in the field of library automation.
Richard was University Librarian at St. Lawrence University from 1986-1994, where he presented the prestigious Frank P. Piskor Faculty Lecture in 1994. He was appointed Librarian of the Folger Shakespeare Library in February 1994.
Yes, he liked the film Shakespeare in Love.
| Writers' Books | Collectors | Markings | Signatures | Henry VIII | Actors' Books | Ordinary Books Made Famous | Bindings | Manuscript Book Lists | Women Collectors | Inscriptions | 18th Century | Alexander Pope | Quiet Lives | Myne? |
Visiting the Folger | Thys Boke Is Myne Intro
This page updated March 10, 2003